Pop Sunday

Dw Dunphy / Charm Offensive

Dw Dunphy

Charm Offensive (Introverse Media LTD. 2021)

For the past twenty-five years, Dw Dunphy has been actively engaged in music, both as a member of bands and as a solo act. Based in Red Bank, New Jersey, the singer, songwriter and multi-diversified instrumentalist has produced quite a hefty discography at this point, with Charm Offensive dialing in as his latest album.

Rich with freedom and vitality, Charm Offensive generates a genre-bending effect that succeeds at all angles. The first piece on the album, The False Clairvoyant, projects a hymn-like feel accented by angelic Association-styled harmonies, while the closing track, Ocean Floor, stands as the ultimate grand finale. Checking in at nearly ten minutes in length, the epic endeavor stages a compelling ballet of mood-altering movements. A lush and hypnotic arrangement gives way to urgent rhythms ticking with intensity, swelling into a space age symphony. Floating and flourishing with beauty, Ocean Floor delivers surprises at every crook and crevice.

Inbetween The False Clairvoyant and Ocean Floor, there’s the hooky hard rock of (I’m Not Here To Be) Your Conscience, the crushing metal-flavored Down In The Valley and Tonight (I Want To Be Wrong), a stark and strummy folk number. Framed of  shimmering threads and sweetened melodies, Things We Say exudes echoes of eighties synth pop, and Crime Scene Reporter is molded of a bare-boned folk format. A somber tenor envelopes the atmospheric applications of Newborn Orphan and What Trenton Breaks The River Takes is energized by a thudding mechanical groove.

Charm Offensive indeed presents an interesting selection of musical fashions. Covering folk, choral pop and the kind of experimental progressive rock sounds practiced by bands like Pink Floyd and Queensryche, the album weaves in and out with varied sonic visages.

On a lyrical level, Dw’s literate prose tends to lean towards the spiritual and philosophical side of the fence, but are decidedly open for translation. If you are not already a fan of Dw Dunphy, you surely will be after hearing this inspired effort. 

Pop Sunday

The Armoires / Incognito

The Armoires

Incognito (Big Stir)

Oh, those sly rascals! Between October 2020 and April 2021, The Armoires released eight excellent singles under different pseudonyms. The reason the Burbank, California band staged such an exercise was to venture beyond their comfort zone and indulge in sonic promiscuity without apology.

All those songs have now been compiled onto a collection appropriately titled Incognito. While the core members of The Armoires are Big Stir founders Rex Broome on vocals and guitar and Christina Bulbenko on vocals and keyboards – along with bassist and vocalist Clifford Ulrich, violist Larysa Bulbenko and drummer John Borack – an assortment of loyal label mates also submit their talents to select cuts.  

Strands of paisley pop elegance tangles and wrangles with classical interludes on a swell cover of John Cale’s Paris 1919, where Bagfoot Run wheels in as a bluegrass-battered number, and the world-weary Homebound is a standard country ballad. Then there’s Awkward City Limits, which totters back and forth between tense moodiness, sweeping viola fills and thrashing rock rhythms.

Governed by grandiose and gloss, Ohma, Bring Your Light Into This Place mixes elements of church revival bliss with Broadway flash into a powerhouse production of dramatic dictation, mountain-sized melodies and goose-pimple inducing harmonies. A sashaying beat and clawing hooks brand the garage rocking  Walking Distance, and a rendition of Christie’s Yellow River remains relatively true to the original bubble-gummy swamp rock version. 

A dash of Brit pop, a touch of grunge and a splattering of wiggy psychedelic effects penetrate I Say We Take Off And Nuke The Site From Orbit, a copy of XTC’s Senses Working Overtime throbs and bobs with animated new wave perspectives, and Magento Moon keys in as an absolutely gorgeous slice of art pop. 

Modeled on the mercurial vision of The White Album and The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands, The Armoires move from one style to another with natural instinct. A fun and spontaneous feel fuels Incognito, letting you know a great time was had, cooking up these splendid songs. Slip on those headphones and enjoy!

Beverly Paterson

Pop Sunday

Singled Out: Mike Browning

Mike Browning

Another Bite At The Apple (Mike Drop Music 2021)

October 2020 saw the release of “Never Too Late,” an EP that introduced the world to Mike Browning. Drawing on the best and brightest pop rock sounds of mid-sixties AM radio, the  North Carolina based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist revisited these influences with spot on precision while injecting his own notions into his superbly-scripted material. Refreshingly pure and moored with melodic perfection, “Never Too Late” registers as a modern day retro masterpiece.

Mike’s current effort, “Another Bite At The Apple” is a single that proceeds to pursue his passion for the music he so deeply loves. Leaning heavily on jogging surf styled rhythms, the springy sentiment owes further tribute to the genre in the form of Mike’s clear and concise vocals, backed by fluid harmonies. A bubblegummy carnival-like organ solo also courts the cut, as well as rolls of tightly-wired hooks and clicking guitar licks. 

Semi-autobiographical, “Another Bite At The Apple” mirrors the experience of Mike meeting and getting together with his wife, Janine, who he has been happily married to for nearly thirty-four years. Picture the Beach Boys mingling with Tommy Roe and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and that pretty much rams the point home on this tasty slice of pop rock sure to steal your heart. 

Pop Sunday

Chris Church / Game Dirt

Chris Church 

Game Dirt

Big Stir Records 2021

Chris Church has been writing and playing a wide scope of sounds and styles for the past thirty years. Orbiting everywhere from pop to heavy metal to experimental art pieces, the Lenoir, North Carolina resident clearly possesses a voracious appetite for music in general. Here on his latest album – Game Dirt – the one-man band pursues a fetching form of progressive pop rock.

Equipped with a voice jointly recalling the grainy bite of Michael Stipe and the rootsy brogue of Adam Durwitz, Chris sings his imaginatively-engineered songs with passion and purpose. A crisp and crunchy tone floods Game Dirt, allowing the material to yield a live and lusty feel that sinks right into your ears and bones. 

Bursting with a jolly demeanor crafted of a foot-stomping beat, windy harmonies and a showing of smashing guitar licks, Learn has wisely been tapped as the first single from the album. Dominated by a penetrating pulse and a hard rocking swagger, Know kicks in as another not to be neglected number, as well as the Todd Rundgen flavored Fall, where pristine melodies collide with a punchy rhythm section to unified effects. 

An aggressive edge slinking with intensity, strengthened by a stabbing hook drives Down, the jumpy jubliance of Smile serves as a countrified power popping delight, and the blindingly beautiful Sunrise communicates a positive message while a flowering of celestial voices, swirling breaks and ringing riffs radiate warmth and security.

Although each song on Game Dirt conveys a different mood and color, they all hang nicely together. You certainly won’t get bored listening to this dynamic album, and will be amazed at the way Chris so effortlessly scales the varied angles and slopes found within his quirky yet catchy songs.

Beverly Paterson

Pop Sunday

Dolph Chaney / This Is Dolph Chaney

Dolph Chaney

This Is Dolph Chaney (Big Stir)!

Although Dolph Chaney has been making music since the late eighties, the Chicago-based singer, songwriter and guitarist didn’t receive widespread recognition until his album, Rebuilding Permit was released by the Big Stir label in 2020. Not only did the disc rope in rounds of raves from the public and music journalists, but led to Dolph winning the impressive seat as Woody Radio’s Artist Of The Year.

So now Dolph has returned to the spotlight with This Is Dolph Chaney, which offers remodelings of songs from the handful of albums he recorded prior to Rebuilding Permit. The thirteen track collection was produced by Nick Bertling, who also chips in on background vocals and instrumentation.

Powered by a jumpy beat and juicy melodies, Cuddle Party ranks as one of the many stand-out tracks on This Is Dolph Chaney, as well as the dizzying static of Now I Am A Man, which features guest vocals from Lindsay Murray of Gretchen’s Wheel. And then there’s the twangy tremors of Pleasant Under Glass, that includes the breezy harmonies of Kevin Robertson and Scott Robertson (of The Vapour Trails). 

Jazzy rhythms, seasoned with a shot of soul-styled six-string flourishes, are heard on the seductive Under The Overpass, where the springy I Wanted You pops and prances with digging hooks and breaks. A bare-bones arrangement, augmented by the haunting tenor of a Mellotron and sleepy but emotionally-charged vocals, shape Sideless World and Worship Song chimes brightly with tingling melodies and ear-pleasing licks.

Shooting and playing straight from the hip, Dolph keeps it real. There is nothing the least bit forced or pretentious about This Is Dolph Chaney, as raw talent and spontaneous energy ride his songs, not fussy and fancy technology. An honest and heartfelt affair, This Is Dolph Chaney is sure to catch fire and gather continual accolades for the Windy City musician.    

Pop Sunday

Here’s Chippy / Pieces

Here’s Chippy

“Pieces” (2021)

After years of playing in bands in and around the Chicago area, Chip Muellemann decided to call it a day and embark on a solo career under the psuedonym Here’s Chippy. Based in Park City, Illinois, the singer, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist has just completed “Pieces,” which marks his sixth full-length studio album. 

The old adage – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – certainly applies when it comes to Here’s Chippy’s music. You always know what to expect when you purchase an album bearing the name, and “Pieces” proceeds to portray his tried and tested practice of straight up rock. The influence of bands such as Cheap Trick and Enuff Z Nuff are evident, while Here’s Chippy’s vocals tend to echo the cheeky grit of Joe Walsh.

 Therefore, tightly-coiled songs, brimming with harnessed energy flood the album. “Everytime I Think Of You,” “No One To Hold,” “Old Friend” and “A Woman Like You” roll in as specific sonic specimans amplifying Here’s Chippy’s knack for braiding together grinding rhythms and heavy hooks into a cohesive concoction. Crunchy guitar chords abound, and a powered backbeat keeps perfect time.

 Although hard rock is the theme, “Pieces” does feature a couple of slight diversions. Peppered with swirling atmospherics, floating melodies and phased vocals, “In My Head” ripples with psychedelic impressions, where  the properly titled “Bump” grooves and grunts to a fierce and funky pitch. 

If you’re itching to hear a big blast of no-nonsense rock, “Pieces” is the album to turn to. And the sound is crisp and clear, propelling these songs to leap right out of the speakers!

Pop-A-Looza TV

Terry Carolan / Fade

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Terry Carolan has been a stalwart of the independent pop rock community for an impressive forty-five years now. Toting a mile long resume starred with bands such as Just Boys, Pinups, True Hearts, New Movies, Blue Cartoon and Heirs of Fortune, Terry is indeed a respected figure amongst the scene.

 Terry also boasts an artistically rewarding solo career, and is currently in the process of putting together a new collection of songs. He has not yet decided if Fade will appear on the forthcoming effort, but after hearing this great song I am sure you will stand in agreement that it should be included in the package.

 Administered by Terry’s rich and powered vocals, Fade is initially dominated by the ringing chords of a piano. Bathed in beauty and light, the song gains momentum at a nice and casual clip before transpiring into a soaring finish of tuneful electric guitars and sweeping rhythms. Set to a smooth arrangement and exploding with grand melodies, Fade sounds a bit like Billy Joel partnering with Badfinger, which certainly spells high praise. 

Although Fade carries a sharp and sparkly exterior, the lyrics express a touch of melancholia. Saying goodbye to a way of life or a relationship is always difficult, but pleasant memories never die and perhaps brighter days are on the horizon. Teeming with all the essential attributes desired in a hit song, Fade is a solid  example of Terry’s exceptional wordsmith and musical skills. 

Pop Sunday

Joel Bachrach & Friends / Airport Dreaming

Joel Bachrach & Friends

Airport Dreaming (2021)

When he is not making music with the New Jersey band damfino, singer, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist Joel Bachrach performs in a side project called Joel Bachrach & Friends. The band consists of a core of local musicians, including singer, songwriter  and multi-instrumentalist Joe Merklee, bassist Alex Bachrach and drummer Chris McKinley from damfino.

Here on their latest album – Airport Dreaming – Joel Bachrach & Friends follow the lead of artists ranging from the early Kinks to The Velvet Underground to Big Star to the dBs. Economical songs, possessing a shrewd lyrical bent are the order of the day. A loose and relaxed mood lights Airport Dreaming, fostering the impression Joel Bachrach & Friends had a barrel of fun recording the album.

 Dictated by jaunty piano fills and magical melodies blinking with life, the title track of the album is a real showstopper. Delivered in a folksy voice, Airport Dreaming contains vivid verse capturing the feeling of hanging out in an airport waiting for your flight to arrive and also describes the sights and environment.

Playing football and pizza for lunch are all but a few childhood memories revisited on the jagged jangle of I Was Nine, a cool Lou Reed styled rap is featured on the brisk and bobbing She Said and Oh Marie steps in as a cute and charming cut of fuzzy guitar pop. Devised of strummy riffs and a repetitious rhythm, Blew It is another catchy offering, along with the needling harmonious vibe of Put Some Weight On, which spills the story of what it was like growing up as a skinny bones.

Bubbling with wiggy hooks, choppy instrumentation and a carefree attitude, Airport Dreaming is alternative pop at its best.  Joel Bachrach & Friends are in it simply because they love creating music, and this album is a nifty memento of their mission. 

Pop Sunday

The Stan Laurels / There Is No Light Without The Dark

The Stan Laurels

There Is No Light Without The Dark (Big Stir Records 2021)

Not to be mistaken for a tribute act to the legendary comedian, The Stan Laurels is a pseudonym for the musical musings of John Lathrop. Based in Austin, Texas, the singer, songwriter and maestro of many instruments recently released his fourth full-length album, There Is No Light Without The Dark, which contains one meticulously-crafted cut after another.

 Gifted with a bright and airy voice glittering with melody, John narrates his songs in a warm and intimate manner that is pleasant to the ears and sustenance for the soul.

 Each and every number on There Is No Light Without The Dark is truly terrific, marked by an emphasis on shifting rhythms, quirky breaks and invigorating intersections of traditional pop fare and edgy instrumentation.

Threaded with ghostly phasing, On Paper features a foggy psychedelic presence, crowned with obligatory backwards guitar gymnastics, where the spunky and imaginative Red-Handed Puppet entails the scenario of a Muppet becoming President of the United States. Well, anything is possible in these crazy times we are living in!

 Serving as an encouragement to stay inspired and keep the creative juices flowing, Tomorrow is torched by a simple plucky beat, then gradually thickens into a mass of explosive electricity before returning to its original format. The sweet and spartan Mateo’s Song is a lovely ode to John’s son, while a couple of very pretty classical pieces are shoehorned into the album.

As far as influences are concerned, it is apparent The Stan Laurels have picked up plenty of pointers from the shoegazing set. Select samplings from the likes of The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Feelies, Teenage Fan Club and Weezer also materialize here and there on There Is No Light Without The Dark. But John’s style of storytelling,  complemented by arty arrangements, sonic experimentation and left-field hooks, produce a sound that is fresh and singular. Crank it up and enjoy! 

Pop Sunday

Richard Turgeon / Let’s Take A Drive

Richard Turgeon “Let’s Take A Drive” (2021)

It’s one thing to be prolific, but it’s another thing to be prolific and accomplished. San Francisco Bay Area singer, songwriter and multi-faceted instrumentalist Richard Turgeon boasts both traits. Following the release of his last full-length album, Sea Change, which appeared this past August, Turgeon has been producing digital singles every couple of weeks.

His current single – “Let’s Take A Drive” – is a popping rocker sizzling with a solid sense of dynamics and sound. Ushered by Turgeon’s rural vocals, the simply-structured, yet bold and blunt song, exudes instant appeal. The energy is raw and forthright, and the hooks and chorus are absolutely addictive. As an additional treat, a sweltering guitar solo is squeezed into the showstopper.

An ideal suggestion for the times we are living in, “Let’s Take A Drive” will no  doubt encourage those cocooning to step outside, get behind the wheel and go cruising. The song is also designed to play at top volume while tooling about with the windows rolled down.

Visualize Tom Petty fronting Bachman Turner Overdrive, and that pretty much defines the flavor and feel of this great song. In a live setting, “Let’s Take A Drive” would be perfect to perform as the closing number. Excitement abounds, Bics are flicked, and when the crowd-pleaser hits the final note, the audience will scream for an encore. Strapped tight with all the makings of a classic rock anthem, “Let’s Take A Drive” possesses traction and power by the mile.